Farm show organizers set schedule through 2018

Jan Shepel
Now Media Group


Bob Wipperfurth and Heidi Johnson were two of the happiest people in the room last week at the annual meeting of Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, Inc. in Madison. That's because they could report on the outcome of the Dane County version of the three-day outdoor farm show held last year August Sun Prairie.

Wipperfurth chaired the county's executive committee for the show and Johnson, who was then just-recently hired as the new UW-Extension agent for Dane County, served as executive secretary. They reported that 45,000 people attended the show over three days at the Statz Brothers farm near Sun Prairie and 15,000 took farm tours that were part of the programming.

Fifty-six civic, youth and community groups helped with the show and received a total of $98,000 from the event. In addition, the county wrote a check to Wisconsin FTD, Inc., for $227,816 and still has about $150,000 left over and plans to use it to give community grants.

Wipperfurth, who will head the grant selection process, believes the grants are one of the many great outcomes of the show. He looks forward to giving grants that will support agriculture and youth in the county.

The purpose of the grants will be to create community and consumer awareness of the importance and impact of agriculture; to develop innovative educational agricultural experiences or projects; or to offer educational leaderships skill building opportunities for youth, families and adults in Dane County.

The grant process will begin in May.

This year's show will be in Walworth County on July 19-21 just a stone's throw from the Illinois border. Walworth County UW-Extension agent Peg Reedy is serving as executive secretary for the event, to be hosted at Steve Snudden's dairy farm, which is in a state of expansion.

Jim Stowell is the chairman of the executive committee. He said that with the show a mere four months away, the county is excited to have secured the sponsorship support from Ford Motor Company and Exacto, a company involved in turf management and direct-to-consumer lawn products. Exacto has paid for naming rights to Innovation Square on the show's grounds and plans to support the show for several more years in the future, Stowell said.

'It's going to be an exciting second year for Innovation Square with a miniature version of Lake Geneva in it, to depict how the area served as a summer getaway for folks from Chicago,' he added. The reproduction lake will come complete with miniature radio-controlled boats.

'Walworth County has never hosted Farm Technology Days or Farm Progress Days, as I've been reminded many times,' said Reedy. 'But that all changes this year. We are a grain producing county but we are hosting the show on a dairy farm, one and a half miles from Illinois. We think this will be the furthest south the show has ever been held.'

Because the area includes a lot of urban residents, Reedy said they are planning to host farm-city events like a tour to a large grain elevator. That tour will include the bus pulling up onto a scale at the elevator. Attendees will also be able to take advantage of farm tours.

'I want to give a great big shout out to Dane County. Bob and Heidi invited us to attend their meetings in the hopes that we could avoid some pitfalls and it was so helpful,' Reedy said.

Kewaunee County 2017

Kewaunee County will hold Farm Technology Days in 2017 where it will be hosted on the dairy farm of sixth-generation farmer Randy Ebert and his wife Renee. After buying the farm from Randy's parents in 1987, they started milking cows in 1997 and grew their herd to 1,000 animals in five year's time. After growing the herd even more through 2012 by raising their own heifers, they purchased a neighboring farm that increased their milking herd to its current size of 3,000 animals that are milked three times a day.

The Eberts farm 5,500 acres and double-crop about 20 percent of that acreage. Their lower-quality dairy cows are being bred to Angus bulls and the Eberts plan to donate all the beef that will be served to attendees during the three-day show in 2017.

Amber Hewett, chair of the show's executive committee, said one of the upgrades and renovations that people will see when they attend the show is the Ebert's new 80-cow rotary parlor that is built to look like an old-fashioned round barn, complete with red siding.

The farm also features five automatic calf feeders. The Eberts have 40 full-time and 15 seasonal employees. Eighteen committees, including 250 volunteers, are already hard at work on the show and the county is halfway to its fundraising goal.

Innovation Square will be in its third year at the Kewaunee show and organizers plan to include a lighthouse and a farmers market in their design for this focus area. In order to foster a new generation of leaders, the county is also including high school and college-age leaders in the committee structure, Hewett said.

This show will be held about a mile and a half from Lake Michigan and she quipped that it might be the furthest east that Farm Technology Days has ever been held.

Aerica Bjurstrom, the Kewaunee County ag agent and executive secretary for the show, said that with 20,000 residents, the county is making good progress toward the 2017 show. The commemorative farm implement has been selected and the production process has begun.

It is a Gehl 800 chopper and 'you can pull it behind any color tractor you like and it will still chop,' she quipped.

Cranberry, dairy in 2018

Wood County will host the show July 10-12, 2018 focusing on two of the area's biggest agricultural commodities — dairy and cranberries. Dennis Bangart, chair of the executive committee said organizers had a difficult time when it came to choosing the host farm since six very good volunteer candidates stepped forward.

Organizers selected Daryl and Brenda Sternweis who will showcase their farm's history as well as its new technology with a 360-cow robotic facility. Also hosting will be Ken and JoEllen Heiman who have a dairy operation with a new rotary parlor, but who are also involved in Nasonville Dairy.

Even with the host family dairy emphasis, Wood County plans to showcase its cranberry business, says Bangart. Wood County is one of the largest cranberry areas in the country, producing 28 percent of the nation's cranberries. 'We may have cranberry beds in Innovation Square,' he added.

Matt Lippert, the County Agent and executive secretary for the show, said that 'one in nine cranberries in the world is a Wood County cranberry.'